Call For Submissions: The biographies of things!


This sweater was knit for me by my paternal grandmother, Geraldine. I call her Nana. She is 90 years old, 4’7” inches tall, and she wears a strawberry red wig on special occasions. Her hands are riddled with arthritis and her vision is fading, yet she didn’t drop a single stitch while constructing this garment. She knits while she watches football and baseball and pauses every once in a while to shout at the screen. She’s a Pats and a Sox fan of course. The sweater is made from muted green acrylic yarn. Both the front and back are cabled. It still smells like her rose perfume. When I put the sweater on it looks like I forgot to take the hanger out because the shoulders come to a point. This must have something to do with the way she seamed it, and maybe something to do with the fact that my shoulders are narrow. And so, I don’t wear it. I have written about my effort to purge (donate or sell) the things I don’t use. The thought of squirreling my belongings away and having them fall into “dormancy” makes me feel sad and a little anxious. Ideally, I want to adore the things I keep and use them for their intended purpose. In most cases, I’m ruthless about donating garments I know I won’t wear because I would rather these items recirculate so that someone else who might love them better can find them. And I can imagine that there is someone out there with broad and pointy shoulders who would look fantastic in this moss green cardigan. But my Nana knit it for me. And she didn’t drop a single stitch. So I keep it.

The finish line of my studies is in sight. For my thesis, I have been exploring issues of object attachment as they relate to the ways we consume and discard. It seems that at every turn, we are met with proof of the impermanence of things. Seasons change, landscapes shift, artifacts materialize and decay, and vibrant life grows, withers, then eventually expires. Psychologists, sociologists, cognitive scientists, theologians, and philosophers have long studied the ways in which our perception of this constant flux governs our behavior for better or worse. Because of the nature of the impermanent world around us, we form emotional attachments to people, places, and things. In many ways, attachment demonstrates one’s ability to recognize the preciousness, uniqueness, or thisness of entities. The bonds we form render us better caregivers and stewards of our surroundings and influence how we place value. We celebrate birth, admire growth, and commemorate transitions. But our attachments may also lead us to fear loss and death. Cases can be made for positioning oneself at either end of a spectrum of emotional attachment. Most of us experience tides of attachment and detachment throughout the course of our lives. Equipped with the ability to feel both in the face of impermanence, we can navigate complex human experiences. If we can examine the ways in which we form attachments, we may better understand how to use objects to remind ourselves of what is most meaningful and highlight the exquisitely beautiful and painful instances of life.

This is a call for submissions. I am collecting the stories of stuff. Please email me a description of any item you might feel inspired to write about. Describe one possession you feel attached to. It may be something you use everyday, or it may be void of utilitarian or aesthetic value to you, yet something prevents you from letting it go. It could be an item reminds you of a loved one or a love lost. Or maybe the initial cost of acquiring the item was too great to part with it. Perhaps it’s something you save ‘just in case’ you find a need for it in the future. Tell me the biography of this object you keep and describe your relationship to it. I will share your stories on this blog. I am curious to see what discoveries might come of lining these objects of attachment up next to each other.

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10 Responses to Call For Submissions: The biographies of things!

  1. Nele May 3, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    I love reading your blog and I found this entry wonderfully written and I’d be happy to hear more about your thesis! So glad your back on the blog!

  2. Cindie K. August 14, 2015 at 1:36 am #

    I just discovered your blog. It is so well written, with your entries being very inspiring. I hope you continue with your No Trash Project, as I am just beginning mine and can learn so much from yours!

  3. Jen August 29, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

    Reminds me of my Gran from Ireland. I say, find someone who can adapt that sweater and wear it!!!

  4. Annette September 13, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    Your blog is such an inspiration! I have recently started a trash-free life and I feel great. Keep posting on your blog, your experiences really designate all of us.

  5. Kerstin October 13, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    Hey :)

    My project went well, thanks for all the inspiration I could get from your blog! Started my own now (in German, of course) to get things going over here.

    Hope you are well – and that one day you’ll start writing blogposts again. :-)

  6. Caroline November 19, 2015 at 9:12 pm #

    the yarn the sweater is knitted from is gorgeous. If you knit, maybe consider undoing the sweater and Knit things for your family from it or a throw blanket.

    As far as attachment items, my mother sent me a tablecloth with matching napkins that she has had sense the early 50’s when she was married. I have never used them and probably never will but i could never part with them. I have very few items that i feel that way about.

    I noticed you haven’t posted in a while…I hope you and your family are well.

  7. litterless blog January 13, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    congrats on finishing your program, colleen! what are you up to these days?

  8. Ana Nogueira March 17, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

    Hi Colleen

    I do have tons of stuff around the house that I have trouble getting rid of, mostly for sentimental reasons. I inherited a vintage checkered brown skirt from grandma she made herself and I wore it once. But yet I would feel horrible if I gave it away. Also, an ex-boyfriend made made me some rings with common wire and one out of a spoon that I also keep around, but do not use – maybe because my husband would be very upset about it. Also, I have a scarf I knitted myself but because I was tired it ended up a bit too short and I do not use it as often as I should (the colors though are beautiful).
    Hope this helps your work. If not, just gimme a shout and I’ll be glad to get you more examples :)
    And finaly, I love your blog and I would love to use even half of your ideas and determination towards a more sustainable life. But I am still on baby steps.

    Best of luck

  9. Mary April 8, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

    Missing your blog so much! Hope you come back.

    Such an inspiration!

  10. Alicia September 30, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

    I absolutely LOVE your blog! Whenever I feel myself getting off track with the ‘No Trash Project’ I come back to this and remember how much easier life can be! Thanks for sharing and please keep posting!

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